Traverse City Record-Eagle

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November 4, 2009

Elk Rapids reacts to murder charge

ELK RAPIDS -- Nearly everyone here is familiar with Anne Avery-Miller and the crime she allegedly committed, an unthinkable act that appalled, yet captivated residents of this quiet, Lake Michigan community.

Nearly two years ago -- on Nov. 7, 2007 -- Avery-Miller's son Sam Avery, 16, died in his home of a gunshot to the head. His mother called it suicide, but investigators suspected murder.

On Tuesday morning, authorities arrested and formally charged Avery-Miller, 39, with an open count of murder for her son's death. She's held without bond in the Antrim County Jail following a twisting, turning, two-year probe.

News of her arrest surged through the village, and came as a relief to residents who've long argued and gossiped over the case.

"It's just a real negative thing. There's nothing positive," said Laura Kohl, manager of Elk Rapids Wine Shop. "It's toxic for a community to have that type of thing hanging over it."

Thirteenth Circuit Court Judge Philip E. Rodgers, serving as a one-man grand jury, indicted Avery-Miller after five days of grand jury proceedings ended last month. Police apprehended Avery-Miller outside her Williamsburg home Tuesday morning. A Nov. 16 pretrial hearing is scheduled in 13th Circuit Court.

The arrest likely doesn't surprise many in Elk Rapids, Kohl said.

"From what I hear, I think most people saw it as being suspicious," she said. "Of course, they don't want to believe she did it; It's horrific, but all of it seemed suspicious from the beginning."

'A fierce sense of denial'

Sam Avery died in an upstairs bedroom of the Elk Rapids home where he lived with his young sister and Avery-Miller. Avery-Miller, a barber, cut hair in the house.

For more than a year police would not say if the wound to the back of Sam Avery's head was self-inflicted or caused by someone else. It wasn't until August that authorities said a forensic pathologist deemed the death a homicide.

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